Sunday, September 4, 2016

Morning Warm-Up: Watkins Glen 2016

Scott Dixon has led every session in IndyCar's return to Watkins Glen
Scott Dixon made it 4-for-4 by winning pole position for the IndyCar Grand Prix at the Glen. The New Zealander has topped every session at the 3.37-mile road course and he looks to get his fourth victory at the track from pole position. Dixon won pole position with a lap of 82.5259 seconds, over five and a half second faster than the track record set by Ryan Briscoe in 2009. Dixon is the first non-Ganassi driver to win multiple pole positions in a season. His last victory from pole position was the first race of the Toronto doubleheader in 2013. Will Power joins Dixon on the front row. He qualified 0.0483 seconds behind the Ganassi driver. Power won from pole position at the most recent Watkins Glen race in 2010. Power advanced to the final round of qualifying after Mikhail Aleshin was penalized for interference. Only twice has Will Power won from second position on the grid and both were in Canada (Toronto 2010 and Edmonton 2011). He won Long Beach 2012 after qualifying second but starting 12th after serving a ten-spot grid penalty.

Sébastien Bourdais makes his Watkins Glen debut from third on the grid. The Frenchman qualified just over a quarter of a second behind Dixon. This is Bourdais' best starting position of the season and his best starting position since starting third at Mid-Ohio last year. He finished 17th in that race. Hélio Castroneves joins Bourdais on row two. Castroneves has started in the top five in all but three races this season. All nine previous Watkins Glen IndyCar races have been won from within the first two rows. Tony Kanaan and Max Chilton make it an all-Ganassi row three. Kanaan has started in the top six in four of his previous six Watkins Glen start. He finished 21st in the 2010 Watkins Glen race. Chilton made the final round of qualifying for the first time in his career. His only top ten finish this season was seventh at Phoenix.

Simon Pagenaud starts seventh after missing the final round of qualifying for the first time this season. He had been the only driver to make the Firestone Fast Six session in the previous eight qualifying session this season. Pagenaud's best finish from seventh on grid was fourth and both came in Canada (Mont-Tremblant and Edmonton 2007). Juan Pablo Montoya makes it an all-Penske row four. Montoya won the Watkins Glen NASCAR Cup race from third on the grid in 2010. The only time Montoya has won from eighth on the grid was Mid-Ohio in 1999. The top Honda qualified was Jack Hawksworth in ninth position. This will be the third time Hawksworth has started ninth this season. He started ninth at St. Petersburg and finished 11th and went from ninth to 19th in the second Belle Isle race. Mikhail Aleshin's penalty dropped him to tenth on the grid. Aleshin's two top ten finishes on permanent road courses both came at Sonoma.

RC Enerson made the second round of qualifying for the first time in his career in his second start. He started 18th and finished 19th in his debut at Mid-Ohio just over a month ago after running out of fuel while in the pit lane on his first stint. Josef Newgarden will Join Enerson on row six. Newgarden had an accident in turn seven during the third practice session of the weekend. Newgarden had started five consecutive races in the top ten. This will be his sixth start from 12th on the grid. His only top ten from 12th starting position was ninth at NOLA last year. James Hinchcliffe had advanced to the second round of qualifying but was penalized for interfering during qualifying and he will start 13th. He is looking to match his career-best of six consecutive top ten finishes. Charlie Kimball joins him on row seven. This is Kimball fourth time starting outside the top ten in the last five races.

Alexander Rossi was the top Andretti Autosport qualifier in 15th position and he will be joined on row eight by Carlos Muñoz. Both drivers are making their first start at Watkins Glen. Rossi hasn't had a top ten finish in four races while Muñoz has three top ten finishes on the trot. Rossi's only top ten on a permanent road course this season was tenth at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Muñoz has finished in the top ten in the last two permanent road course races. Conor Daly starts 17th next to Marco Andretti. Daly ran at Watkins Glen last year in the IMSA Six Hours of the Glen in a Prototype Challenge car. Andretti's only top ten finish this season was ninth in the second Belle Isle race. He has three fifth-place finishes in five starts at Watkins Glen. Andretti's worst starting position at Watkins Glen prior to this year's race was eighth.

Ryan Hunter-Reay will start 19th, his career worst starting position at Watkins Glen. Hunter-Reay has two top ten finishes in five starts from 19th position. He won the Indianapolis 500 in 2014 from 19th and finished 10th at Sonoma in 2011 from 19th position. Graham Rahal had advanced to the second round of qualifying but, just like Hinchcliffe, an interference penalty dropped Rahal to 20th on the grid. Rahal went from 24th to fourth in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis earlier this season. He has only finished in the top ten once after his three previous victories. He finished third at Milwaukee after his victory at Fontana last year. Spencer Pigot will start 21st and Takuma Sato rounds out the field after losing his two fastest laps after causing a red flag. This will be the fourth time Pigot has started 21st this season. His best finish from 21st on the grid was 14th at St. Petersburg. This will be the 20th time in 117 starts Sato will start outside the top twenty.

NBCSN's coverage of the IndyCar Grand Prix at the Glen is 2:00 p.m. ET with green flag scheduled for 2:37 p.m. ET. The race is scheduled for 60 laps.